Last week I posted an essay on Baptist church autonomy. As I did the research for that essay, I found some interesting material in Howard Forshee’s Broadman Church Manual. This manual is quite helpful, and I’ve given copies to several new pastors. In his book Forshee quotes from Lee McCoy’s book, Understanding Baptist Polity, sharing the principles of New Testament polity. The word “polity” pertains to governance. My comments are in parenthesis.
- God is the sovereign ruler of all mankind.
- Christ is the head and divine teacher of the church. (Eph 5:23)
- The Holy Spirit is our guide and source of power. (As a foreign missionary, I taught the baby churches to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and study the Bible to find answers to their questions and concerns. In other words, I taught them to be guided by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible.)
- The Bible is the supreme authority of the church.
- Each individual is competent and free under God. (This pertains to the priesthood of the believer.)
- Each church is an autonomous spiritual democracy. (I have heard that a Baptist church is a “spiritual democracy” all my life. This means that Baptist churches generally practice congregational polity. Still, that phrase, “spiritual democracy,” always makes me wonder. Would we do better to say that a church is a “Christocracy,” meaning ruled by Christ? We may wish to discuss this matter.)
- A church is a regenerate body. (This means a church is comprised of born-again people.)
- Church members have equal rights and privileges. (Each member has one vote.)
- Church cooperation is a voluntary matter. (Churches voluntarily join a local Baptist association, a state convention, and the SBC. A church can be a member of one, but not another.)
- Religious liberty is an inalienable right. (I sadly predict that religious liberty will be threatened more and more in the coming years.)
(Original Source: Lee H. McCoy, Understanding Baptist Polity, Convention Press)
When William Thornton and I were young, these principles were taught to us in Training Union on Sunday evenings. Of course, Training Union is long gone. I wonder, though, how our members can learn these principles today.